Peter English had a wonderful article about Brendan Nash, a West Indian cricketer of mixed heritage and often “accused” of being white. (Over at the Guardian, Paul Weaver also provides some interesting quotes from the man in question.) He’s something of a sensation in the West Indies: racially mixed, conceived in Jamaica but born in Australia, where he grew up, then a migrant back to Jamaica, which he now calls home, and, because of his fair(er) skin, called “white.”
A couple of things pop out for me: first, there is another cricketer of mixed heritage — Andrew Symonds — who hasn’t had the best of times lately (and has gone downhill ever since he got into that racially tinged war-of-words with Harbhajan in 2007). Symonds’s biography mirrors Nash: of West Indian origin, Symonds grew up in Australia, where he was adopted and raised, I think, by white parents. Hopefully, things will turn out better for Nash than they have for Symonds, who apparently still feels bitter and angry at Cricket Australia for abandoning him.
And the mirror is complete with recent history: Singh calls Symonds a “monkey,” even though British colonialists would have wasted no time in calling Singh one as well. Meanwhile, Nash, a brown man in a black society, gets called ‘white,’ even though he looks just the same shade as Symonds. It’s strange how these things work, but it shows how different our local racial constructions can be: white in the West Indies obviously isn’t white in Australia, where black is clearly not the same black in India.
The New Yorker had an article about African businessmen in China this week, and included the results of a survey:
“Sims conducted an informal sidewalk experiment in Fuzhou, a large southern city, in which he asked people to identify photographs of famous black Americans by race. Oprah was indentified as Indian; Lena Horne didn’t ‘have the lips of black people’; Beyonce was white, as was Benjamin Davis, the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen.”
It’s funny, because in the United States, usually the one-drop rule applies: if you have even one drop of black blood in you, you cannot be considered white (as is the case with President Obama now, who is almost never considered ‘white’). White women can have black babies, but black women can almost never have white young’uns. But in the West Indies, a different rule works, at least with Nash: a touch of white, and you’re as white as the moon.